San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Parrita Dikes Pass Test

PARRITA, Puntarenas province – A new system of canals, levees, and dikes may have helped this central Pacific town escape the worst of the torrential rains that have pounded Costa Rica.

Residents who usually get hit worst by the overflowing river woke up dry Oct. 13 morning, following a heavy night of rain.

“We didn’t have to raise our things, but we did anyway,” said Diego Abarca, referring to the task of elevating all electrical based appliances to protect them.

The only water Abarca felt was from the rain that fell directly in his town of Citrodique, or the small amount that leached through the new 13-meter-wide barrier between the town and the swollen river.

The project, carried out by Constructoro Especiales de Atlántico, began in May after flooding that left much of downtown Paritta under nearly five feet of water (TT, June 6).

The system includes two new barriers, or levees, that run along side of Rio Parrita for four kilometers as it enters the downtown area. The 13-meter wall, in effect, creates a higher bank for the river and, therefore, keeps water from overflowing.

“The material used (to build the levee) was excavated from the same Rio Parrita,” said Andrés Castro, an engineer for the National Emergency Commission (CNE), which helped with the design and completion of the project.

Accompanying the new barriers is a series of small canals meant to help divert some of the river to outlying streams, smaller rivers and the ocean when the worst rains hit.

Throughout the heary rains of mid-October, the canals carried the mud-rich water through nearby palm plantations, seemingly out of harm’s way. Some residents, however, were quick to notice a problem.

‘They didn’t divert the water very far,” said Cristian Villalobos, who works in Parrita. “When you divert water into other smaller rivers, they overflow, too.” During the worst of the flood, many of the small rivers just outside Parrita jumped their banks and wreaked havoc on nearby graveyards, small bridges and side roads.

Other problems remain obvious to both the citizens of Parrita and CNE officials.

The levee system only goes as far as the eastern side of the RioParritaBridge. As soon as the water passes under the bridge, it explodes out to either side, ripping over its natural banks and flooding large tracts of farm land and small towns behind it.

Construction equipment, cattle and crops could all be seen being swept away during the worst of the rain.

“We had problems with farmers giving up parts of their land for the project,” said CNE director Daniel Gallardo. “That’s the reason places like Pueblo Nuevo were so badly affected again.”

Rebecca Madrigal, spokeswoman for CNE, promised the agency is working on the problem in Pueblo Nuevo.


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